There are different types and variations of traditional bat-and-ball games, with their basic premise involving a game play between two opposing teams that take turns to play offense (batting) and defense (‘balling’ or pitching). Early bat-and-ball games can be dated as far back as the 13th century.
Baseball and softball are two of the most popular modern day bat-and-ball games. While both involve the same basic principles, they have some significant differences that make them distinct from each other. Let’s take a closer look at the two games to help identify the similarities and differences.
What is Baseball?
Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams in an open field. The two teams take turns batting and fielding.
The baseball field, also known as the baseball diamond, is structured in a diamond shape that consists of 4 bases: 1 home base (also called the home plate) and 3 bases in the outfield. The baseball field/diamond can refer to the entire field, or just to the area defined by the 4 bases.
The boundary lines (called foul lines) extend at 45 degree angles from home plate.
According to baseball rules, teams are made up of 9 players that take turns at the offense (batting and baserunning), and defense (pitching and fielding).
Each pair of a batting and pitching turn constitutes an inning. In professional league baseball, there are 9 innings in a game, while there are typically 7 and 6 in highschool and little leagues, respectively.
There are 3 main tools or equipment in baseball:
- The baseball ball
- Bat and glove (or mitt)
- Protective helmets are also worn by batters and the catcher.
What is Softball?
Softball is fundamentally similar to baseball but with several differences. These differences pertain to ball, bat and field size, among others, which will be discussed further below.
There are two types of softball, fast-pitch and slow-pitch. As the names suggest, fast-pitch softball involves the ball travelling at a fast speed due to throwing the ball at an upward angle.
On the other hand, the ball moves slower in slow-pitch softball primarily because there is no windup and windmill motion when the ball is thrown as in the fast-pitch version.
Interestingly, baseball and softball both originated in the late 1800s, only 20 – 30 or so years apart. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, softball did not originate from baseball, but in fact, derives from the game of football.
According to the stories, during a college football match between Yale and Harvard in the late 1880s, an alumnus of one of the schools threw a boxing glove at an alumunus from the other school who responded by hitting it back with a stick.
Someone simply yelled ‘play ball’, and so the game of softball was invented.
As its name suggests, softball was given its name because a softer ball was initially used in playing the game. Over time, that changed and now the softball is much harder. In addition, softball was initially an indoor game but it has now evolved into both an indoor and outdoor sport.
Let’s look at some of the differences between baseball and softball with respect to some of the tools/equipment, elements and rules of the games.
One of the main differences between baseball and softball is that softball is played with a significantly larger ball.
A baseball ball measures between 9 – 9 ¼ inches and 5.00 – 5.25 ounces.
A softball ball measures 11-12 inches in circumference and is typically 6.25-7.00 ounces
Due to the significant difference in size between a baseball and a softball ball, the gloves used in the two games differ to accommodate this.
Softball gloves are generally larger than baseball gloves due to the larger size of ball in softball.
In addition, softball players generally prefer tighter fitting gloves so that it allows them to catch the large ball. On the other hand, baseball gloves are usually looser fitting.
Despite the prototypical differences between the baseball and softball glove, the gloves can be used interchangeably between the two sports, depending on your level of strictness!
The typical baseball glove is 11.25 – 13 inches (smaller for a middle infielder, and larger for an outfielder) as measured from the top of the pointer finger to the center of the heel of the hand.
In comparison, softball gloves, run between 11.5 inches and 15 inches. The softball glove measures differently particularly due to it having a deeper pocket and larger web (portion that connects the fingers to the thumb).
The bats used in baseball are typically much larger than those used in softball.
The material of bats can also differ as only wood bats are permitted in professional league baseball whereas softball bats can come in various material including aluminum, composite (graphite, carbon, metal) and hybrids.
Despite this, some softball leagues and programs place more restrictions on the types of bats that can be used.
Baseball bats can be a maximum of 42 inches
while softball bats usually run up to only 34 inches.
Baseball field are significantly larger than softball fields. While the outfield fence on most baseball fields is about 400 feet from home plate, it is only 220 feet in softball. Moreover, the distance between home and first base is 90 feet (with the same distance between each of the rest of the bases) in baseball, compared to 60 feet in softball.
Because softball fields are much smaller than baseball fields, this makes it much more difficult for runners to get onto base.
The pitcher’s mound is distanced at 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate in baseball whereas in softball, this distance is only 35 – 43 feet.
In addition, while the pitching mound is raised about 10 inches off the ground in baseball, the mound is not raised in softball.
Also in softball, pitchers pitch from within a defined pitching circle and thus have more space to move around in compared to baseball.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between baseball and softball is pitching technique…
In baseball, pitchers throw overhand while softballers pitch underhand. In addition, because the pitching distance is just 43 feet in softball, the ball travels at a lower speed, reaching on average 60 mph, compared to baseball where the ball travels faster at over 90 mph.
However, if taking distances into account, then the overall velocity of the ball in both games is actually similar.
Compared to baseball, fast-pitch softball places greater emphasis on pitching because the pitcher throws from a distance much closer to home plate than in baseball.
At the beginning levels of youth softball, pitchers generally deliver pitches about 35 feet from home plate. At higher levels of play, pitchers throw balls from 40 feet.
So, generally speaking while on the surface both sports seem similar, they are. But, as you’ll see their are more intricate differences between the two and that not even taking into account on how each sport was started.
Any differences here you didn’t know? Let us know!